For three years in a row, Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki has walked away with the Oscar for Best Cinematography — this time for his work on The Revenant. The Mexican-born director of photography has been nominated eight times and also won last year for his work on Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Birdman for the long continuous takes through a maze of lighting. And the year before that, he won for Gravity, where he had to actually invent equipment to get the particular look that director Alfonso Cuaron had wanted to achieve. He is the first cinematographer ever to win three years in a row.
For The Revenant, Lubezki worked with natural light as that is the look he and his director Alejando G. Inarritu decided upon. While that limited the number of hours the crew could work in a day — about five hours at times — what they were able to achieve was the creation of a dank and realistic 1820s American frontier. Lubezki said he used an Alexa 65MM digital camera which allowed for a more naturalistic look. He also used wide lenses to immerse the audience into the landscape.
Lubezki told Deadline that shooting The Revenant was one of the most challenging productions of his career. Working in zero temperatures, rain, winds and even falling into a freezing river only to be helped out by his key grip, Lubeszki’s passion to bring The Revenant to life was only matched by his director’s.
Together, they took audiences through a bear attack, hunted by Indians, over a cliff, down rapids of a river and through the pines in a way we have not seen before. Seemingly, there is no shot that Lubezki won’t try. And he is an incredible photographer in his own right. He began posting some of those shots from the set on Instagram. The master, as many other peers consider him, says he is still learning. For all of our sake, may his curiosity never end.